William Stafford

Copyright, Plagiarism, and Disclaimer

Copyright: The material on this website is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.

Plagiarism: Please give credit where credit is due and properly cite your source.

Disclaimer: Mistakes and errors are inevitable. Caveat emptor.

For more information, please see this page.
ChartsAncestors of Wilford Ervie Billings
Francis Cooke to Wilford Ervie Billings
Ulysses Simpson Grant - Wilford Ervie Billings
Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Wilford Ervie Billings
William Stafford, son of Joshua Stafford and Susannah Cory, was born at Tiverton, Newport Co., Rhode Island, 3 April 1776.1,2,3,4,5 He died at Manchester, Ontario Co., New York, 10 February 1863.6

William married Mary Cook, probable daughter of Abner Cook and Hannah Shearman, 31 October 1802.2,7

He is said to have been a soldier in the War of 1812 and a prisoner of war. He escaped one night, crawling on his hands and knees through a prickly ash bramble and before he had gotten beyond speaking distance he heard the guard call out, "One o'clock and all is well." When daylight came, he found himself covered with mud and blood he had received from the scratches of the prickly ash.8

In 1833 William gave testimony regarding the character of the family of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith:

Testimony of William Stafford
Manchester, Ontario County, N. Y. December 8, 1833

I, William Stafford, having been called upon to give a true statement of my knowledge, concerning the character and conduct of the family of Smiths, known to the world as the founders of the Mormon sect, do say, that I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family, in the year 1820. They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence. A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: especially in the night time, when they said the money could be most easily obtained. I have heard them tell marvelous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging. They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man’s farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold—bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver—gold candlesticks, swords, &c. &c. They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all thing within and under the earth,--that he could see within the above-mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates,--that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress. At certain times these treasures could be obtained very easily; at others, the obtaining of them was difficult. The facility of approaching them, depended in a great measure, on the state of the moon. New moon and good Friday, I believe were regarded as the most favorable times for obtaining these treasures. These tales I regarded as visionary. However, being prompted by curiosity, I at length accepted of their invitations, to join them in their nocturnal excursions. I will now relate a few incidents attending these excursions.

Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph, Jr., had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth; and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. I accordingly consented to go, and early in the evening repaired to the place of deposit. Joseph, Sen., he first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch-hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits. Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse he evil spirit who has charge of these treasures. After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man, by signs and motions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of your disappointment. He soon returned, and said, that Joseph had remained all this time in the house, looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit—than he saw the spirit come up to the ring, and as soon as it beheld the cone which we had formed around the rod, it caused the money to sink. We then went into the house, and the old man observed, that we had made a mistake in the commencement of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money.

At another time, they devised a scheme, by which they might satiate their hunger with the mutton of one of my sheep. They had seen in my flock of sheep, a large, fat black wether. Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph, Jr., had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way was as follows:--That a black sheep should be taken on to the ground where the treasures were concealed—that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit should be appeased: the treasure could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four-fold. To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they every made money-digging a profitable business. They, however, had around them constantly a worthless gang, whose employment it was to dig money nights, and who, day times, had more to do with mutton than money.

When they found that the people of this vicinity would no longer put any faith in their schemes for digging money, they then pretended to find a Gold Bible, of which, they said, the Book of Mormon was only an introduction. This latter book was at length fitted for the press. No means were taken by any individual to suppress its publication: no one apprehended any danger from a book, originating with individuals who had neither influence, honesty or honor. The two josephs and Hiram, promised to show me the plates, after the Book of Mormon was translated. But, afterwards, they pretended to have received an express commandment, forbidding them to show the plates. Respecting the manner of receiving and translating the Book of Mormon, their statements were always discordant. The elder Joseph would say that he had seen the plates, and that he knew them to be gold; at other times he would say he had not seen the plates at all. I have thus briefly stated a few of the facts, in relation to the conduct and character of the family of Smiths; probably sufficient has been stated without my going into detail.

William Stafford

State of New York, Wayne County,

I certify that on this 9th day of December, 1833, personally appeared before me William Stafford, to me known, and made oath to the truth of the above statement, and signed the same

Th. P. Baldwin
Judge of Wayne County Court.9

Another story related to the Smiths was told by a neighbor and friend of the Stafford's:
Young Joseph Smith had a vision that saw where vast treasures were buried, and that a "black sheep" had to be sacrificed on the ground above the treasure. This sacrifice was on the second hill east of the Smith house, at that time on the Chase farm. This hill was called "Old Sharp", and by divine command, Joseph was to go to the barnyard of William Stafford and take from the fold a black sheep without leave or license, and lead it to the place where it was to be sacrificed. That night the parties met at the appointed hour, at the chosen spot with lanterns. Joseph traced a circle with which the wether was placed and his throat cut; the blood saturated the ground. Silently and solemnly, but with vigor, excavation began.

Three hours of futile labor passed, when it was discoverd that the older Smith, assisted by one of his boys, had taken the sheep quietly away, thus giving the Smith family a stock of fat mutton for family use. The next day Joseph went to Mr. Stafford and said to him, "I suppose you have missed your black wether. God owns all the cattle and sheep on the hills and commanded me to come and take that wether. I am willing to pay for the sheep. I have no money, but I will work for you until you are satisfied you are paid."

Joseph could make good sap buckets and Mr. Stafford needed a few more so he told Joseph he could make him sap buckets enough to pay for the sheep, which he did to the satisfaction of Mr. Stafford.

In regards to the sheep, there was probably an understanding between Joseph and his father that he would come for the carcass after the sacrifice. If Joseph paid for the sheep, didn't he and his family have the right to it? At least, that appears to have been their reasoning.10


Mary Cook b. 6 Sep 1778, d. bt 13 Apr 1863 - 28 Feb 1865
  • Hannah Stafford2 b. 18 Oct 1803
  • John Stafford5 b. 15 Mar 1805, d. 24 Feb 1905
  • Anna Stafford11 b. 18 Jul 1806, d. 28 Dec 1871
  • Mary A. Stafford12 b. 1807, d. bef. 1863
  • Barton Stafford+3,11 b. 7 Sep 1808, d. 28 Sep 1878
  • Lydia Stafford2 b. 21 Feb 1810
  • Nelson Stafford11 b. 4 Dec 1811, d. bt 1863 - 1865
  • Mahala Stafford11 b. 25 Jan 1815, d. bef. 1850
This person was last edited on31 Mar 2021


  1. [S602] James N. Arnold, Vital Record of Rhode Island. 1636-1850: First Series: Births, Marriages and Deaths. A Family Register for the People, 21 vols. (Providence, Rhode Island: Narragansett Historical Publishing, 1891-1912), 4:7:108, town record 1:148, further cited as Arnold, Vital Record of Rhode Island.
  2. [S1961] 1833 & 1856 Bible records, in application file #54834, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  3. [S458] Ancestry.com, 1860 United States Census [on-line database and images] (http://www.ancestry.com), Manchester, Ontario, New York, population schedule, sheet #469/57, dwelling #415, family #441, William Stafford household, age 84, born in Rhode Island, a farmer with $1100 in personal estate; original data: NARA micropublication M653, Eighth Census of the United States, 1438 rolls, roll #831.
  4. [S457] Ancestry.com, 1850 United States Census [on-line database and images] (http://www.ancestry.com), Manchester, Ontario Co., New York, population schedule, sheet #306, dwelling #80, family #80, William Stafford household, age 77, born in Rhode Island, a farmer; original data: NARA micropublication M432, Seventh Census of the United States, 1009 rolls, roll #572.
  5. [S469] Don Charles Nearpass, "Materials for a Genealogy of Josiah Stover who became Josiah Stafford of Tiverton, R. I.": 1985, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, 137, further cited as "Stafford Notes."
  6. [S590] Ontario Co., New York, Probate Records, 1830-1883, O:468, FHL microfilm 834840, further cited as Ontario Co., NY Probate.
  7. [S458] 1860 United States Census, Manchester, Ontario, New York, pop. sched., sheet #469/57, dwelling #415, family #441, William Stafford household, age 82, born in Rhode Island.
  8. [S1302] Thomas L. Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity(Palmyra, New York: Palmyra Courier-Journal, 1930), 221, further cited as Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity.
  9. [S1299] John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; or an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism(Boston, Massachusetts: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 64-66, further cited as Bennett, History of the Saints.
  10. [S1302] Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity, 221-222.
  11. [S590] Ontario Co., NY Probate, P:664-666; FHL #834841.
  12. [S458] 1860 United States Census, Manchester, Ontario, New York, pop. sched., sheet #469/57, dwelling #415, family #441, William Stafford household, age 53, born in New York.